Fort Lauderdale Dillard’s football team’s future looked hazy before Friday night’s game against Miami Carol City.
Would the Panthers play like they did a week ago during an embarrassing 50-0 Soul Bowl loss to Blanche Ely?
Or would they recapture the momentum they had during a seven-game winning streak that earned them a district championship?
“Last week, we did some things we normally don’t do and we were selfish,” Dillard coach Lorenzo Davis said. “We sat down the seniors and worked with them and talked to them about playing as a team. If we do that, we can accomplish great things.”
Dillard chose the latter jumping out to a 21-point first half lead and later holding off Carol City for a 28-19 home victory in a Region 4-6A quarterfinal. It was the Panthers’ first playoff win since 2008 and first under Davis.
Dillard (8-3) will take on defending Class 6A state champion Miami Central next Friday at 7:30 p.m. in a regional semifinal at Traz Powell Stadium in North Miami.
“The weather hurt us a bit last week, but we had a mindset to take care of business and get ready for this week,” Dillard senior quarterback Lee Martin said. “We knew what it took to gel as a team. We had to put that Ely loss behind us quick.”
Martin completed seven passes — each to a different receiver — out of 14 attempts for 159 yards, threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more on quarterback sneaks to lead the Panthers.
“It all worked in practices throwing the right balls and running the right routes,” Martin said. “Everyone was on point.”
Dillard’s defense, led by Randy Ramsey, Christian Bouie and Rico Kennedy, sacked Carol City quarterback Trayone Gray eight times and contained him enough to shut out the Chiefs (7-4) in the first half.
Gray also had trouble with the footing on a muddy field at Dillard and slipped several times on plays he tried to scramble.
“Our game plan was not to let Gray beat us and keep him in the pocket,” Davis said. “He’s too much of an outstanding player.”
Gray nearly brought Carol City back in the second half throwing three touchdown passes including a 75-yarder on a screen to Roy Edwards on the first play of the second half.
Trailing 28-19, Gray appeared to throw a fourth touchdown pass on a desperation heave to the back of the end zone. The catch made by Theo Hammonds in double coverage, however, was nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty. Two plays later, Carol City turned the ball over on downs.
Gray went 15 of 29 for 224 yards but also threw two costly interceptions that also ended scoring drives. John Fludd’s interception with two minutes left sealed the outcome.
“You can’t have a better execution from [Dillard’s] standpoint,” Carol City coach Aubrey Hill said. “They built a lead and came after our quarterback and made it difficult for us. We still had quite a bit of opportunities in the red zone and didn’t come up with any points.”
Gray’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Hammonds cut Dillard’s lead to 28-13, but the Chiefs missed the extra point. Dewanis Huell recovered a fumble for Carol City that set up Gray’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Lewis later in the quarter to cut the deficit to 28-19, but the Chiefs again missed the conversion on a failed two-point pass.
“We knew if we put it all together we’d have success this season and one thing about this team is that they fought all the way through,” Hill said. “That’s what I’m encouraged about heading into the offseason.”